I’ve been M.I.A. in the blogiverse for a while now – in recovery. After another adventure with my husband, exploring the pinnacles and primeval parts of the world, I experienced a whole new peak – of exhaustion. This was also a unique trip for us because we were constantly with other people – sometimes family, sometimes friends. While this was wonderful, it left our introverted souls a bit tired and in need of some reclusiveness, time to recharge.
It had been two years – two years – since last I saw my sister. I had not seen her or her husband since my wedding. They live in the mountains of New Mexico, in Ruidoso, 15 hours away from my home. Circumstances had caused us to miss one another on family holidays. Needless to say, it was long overdue to spend quality time with one another. It was endearing, too, because I realized through the time spent with her that, though she and I are much different (quite literally a personification of yin and yang), our personality types are not too far off. She is also a true introvert. As my exhaustion grew, I could feel hers burgeoning as well. We both were sacrificing our recharge time to spend time together, but it was worth it.
Here are some of the peaks of our trip:
Our first stop en route to New Mexico was our close friends’ new home. Robbie and Maggie recently located 7 + hours away for a job, and I was thrilled to stop off for a lens into their new life. These two friends are a pivotal part of our college life and experience. Most of that time period, they had yet to realize they were soul mates, and it has been beautiful to witness their love bloom, and with it, our friendship transform. I reveled in our time spent together, our husbands off looking at Rob’s microscope, or grilling, or talking video games (because some things never change), while Maggie and I drank wine, talked about complex concepts, cooked (well, she did, at least), and entertained ourselves. We intersected for meals and games. They are a rare gem of a couple, all of us genuinely enjoying one another’s company. I’m always cognizant of time and space, and I cherished every moment with them in their newlywed life, while we are all young, childless, and free. Their home is lovely, their animals are plump and happy, and they are glowing.
Gorging on Green Chiles
One of the best parts of being in New Mexico: homegrown hatch green chiles. I stuffed my stomach with as many green chiles as possible while visiting. In between visits, I literally dream about eating green chile chicken enchiladas. The first thing I always do is head to my favorite restaurant for enchiladas and gorge myself with ungodly portions. This trip was one for the books. I ate green chiles with every meal – even when we stopped at McDonalds on our way out of the state. I ate fried green chiles (think onion rings, only with green chiles instead) and, at one point, I ate a green chile, stuffed with green chiles, and smothered in green chile sauce (it was a sacrament, surely). I bought a jar of green chile sauce to bring home with me, and I am seriously tempted to go eat a spoonful right now as I type this.
Fourth of July Fireworks
The fourth of July was fabulous, start to finish. My sister and her husband picked us up early in the morning, and we traveled through the mountains to the small valley town her husband is from, Capitan. I briefly lived in the area when I was in high school, but I never made it out to Capitan, and I missed out. We ate breakfast in this homegrown, family restaurant with Smokey the Bear memorabilia plastered from wall to wall. The food was delicious, the waitress was precious, and there was a real aura of friendliness. When we were done eating, we hung out right outside of the restaurant to view the parade, which was the quintessential small, mountain town parade. Smokey the bear was among the first floats to meander on by; people rode by on horses, cattle, and even a camel while waving; the town football team threw candy (albeit a bit too hard); smug citizens passed, driving their prized, classic cars (or tractors); and, at last, the fire department (which is much larger than I’m exposed to, not living in a fire danger zone), the true heroes of the mountains, rode by in their many unique firetrucks, spraying us all with super soakers, which I found quite clever.
That evening, we went to the mountain resort, Inn of the Mountain Gods, a lush, yet perfectly landscaped paradise that overlooks Sierra Blanca. My sister is sort of an eccentric, mountain woman celebrity in the small town, and she always gets plenty of perks, one of which was a front and center table at the restaurant patio, directly across from the fireworks, with perhaps the best view of the Mountain in town. It truly was breathtaking, and there were many moments in which I sat, gazed out at the view, and contemplated how blessed life can be at times. We ate delicious barbecue, sipped on strong drinks, engaged in stimulating conversation, watched the sun set over the mountain, (may or may not have accidentally broken an umbrella), and, at last, viewed the most spectacular fireworks show.
Wilderness to Wasteland
The next day, we experienced highs and lows, figuratively and literally. The plan for the day was simple: travel to Cloudcroft with my grandparents, another small mountain town; eat lunch at The lodge, a family favorite; shop on Burro street; drive through my grandparents’ old neighborhood in Cloud Country; then head to White Sands to experience the sand dunes. Before the day even began, we ran into some roadblocks. Being from a part of Texas where there is a gas station every few miles, my husband and I assumed we would fill up en route to Cloudcroft. As we entered into the wilderness, we soon realized this was fantastical thinking. We ended up having to turn back to get gas, which took around an hour in total. We were a bit frazzled, but, all in all, we still had plenty of daylight, a full tank of gas, and newfound knowledge (never again will we assume anything about unfamiliar territory). The drive to Cloudcroft softened our cranky attitudes – winding mountain roads, the trees ascending into the clouds. Ruidoso is lovely in its own right, with pine trees everywhere, but, as we increased in elevation, tall junipers jetted out from the ground, darkening everything with monochromatic shades of green.
Lunch at The Lodge also went off without a hitch. We explored the grounds with my grandparents, reading about the tale of Rebecca, the ghost that supposedly haunts the lodge, and, to hear some people tell it, my family. We took pictures of everything, explored the narrow, creepy halls that Rebecca’s ghost supposedly wanders, and I tried to recall childhood memories of this same place. Our lunch had a scenic view, and the food was divine (this was where I shamelessly indulged in the green chile with green chiles inside, smothered in green chile sauce.). After lunch, my husband and I headed to Burro st. for some shopping.
We had barely parked at Burro street when it began to hail; it wasn’t large, but there was a lot of it. The weather, plain and simple, was bad. It wasn’t shopping weather. It wasn’t driving weather. It was hole up in a dark room and wait it out weather. I was cranky. My grandparents were dead set on going to Cloud country, despite the weather. It’s about a 15 minute drive from town, and the neighborhood itself is quite perilous even in the best weather. I was hesitant, but not wanting to disappoint anyone, we headed in that direction, thinking the weather would clear out. The weather somewhat dissipated, but there was so much hail on the ground that it looked like it had snowed. Still, we trucked on, in a Lexus, into the mountain. It was beautiful and nostalgic, but I could hardly breathe for how scared I was. This was one of the most dangerous places we drove in the whole trip, and I was terrified. Nevertheless, we survived, and, in hindsight, I’m glad we did it. My husband got to see a place I spent much time as a child, and my grandparents were happy to show us around.
My stomach was sick on the way back into town, and we fortuitously stopped at a random restroom on the way back into town. There may not be gas stations, but there are lone bathrooms out in the wilderness for the weak of stomach. I don’t say this for TMI, but to emphasize my emotions on this day. I went from cranky, to excited, to cranky, to sick, and we still had half a day left. My husband and I diverged from here, descending down the mountain towards the desert. As we drove, the weather continued to clear out, and the view opened up, revealing rolling Mountains all the way in the distance. We stopped at a lookout on the side of the road and took in the view. Immediately, my discomfort dissipated like the storm clouds, and I appreciated our journey and the beauty of the landscape. We took some pictures and listened to my favorite song, Aeroplane Under the Sea, contemplating the lyrics:
“What a beautiful face I have found in this place that is circling all round the sun.
What a beautiful dream that could flash on a screen in a blink of an eye and be gone from me.
Soft and sweet, let me hold it close and keep it here with me.
And one day we will die, and our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea.
But for now we are young; let us lay in the sun, and count every beautiful thing we can see”
This simple moment with my husband will always resonate with me and remain one of the moments I call back in the hard times.
We got back in the car and continued down the mountain, watching the terrain transform once again. Ruidoso is 6,729′ above sea level; Cloudcroft is 8,668′ above sea level; White sands is 4,300′ above sea level. We were on a roller coaster. As we entered into the desert, I contemplated how vastly different it was than the sprawling wilderness we had left only an hour before. When we arrived at White Sands National Monument, the desert turned into sand dunes that stretched for miles. Driving deep into the dunes, you began to feel like you were not, in fact, on earth, but instead the moon. My feet disappeared into the soft, warm sand, and the sky stretched a deep, cobalt blue, with cotton candy clouds. I climbed the tallest dune and looked out into the distance, over the dunes, towards the mountains we had descended earlier. I could see the storms that clouded my mood in the distance as well, our whole day before me, and I was happy. I wouldn’t change any part of that experience because, as usual in life, it is the lows that help you to appreciate the highs, the classic juxtaposition that it requires darkness to bring forth light.
We left just in time because, as we watched white sands fade into the distance, we noticed a sandstorm had begun. We could see the sandstorm for miles, and I’m certain we would have been lost out there in it had we not left when we did. We drove back up the mountain, enjoyed a nice dinner with my sister and her husband, and laughed as I found sand in my ear at the dinner table.
Puppies && Playfulness
I love dogs. I love them. I’m obsessed with them. I can’t get enough of them. If there is a dog in the room, it is a magnet for me. If you invite me to a party, and there is an animal in the room, that is where you will find me. I got my doggy fix while in New Mexico. My sister has a beautiful german shepherd named Gila; she and I shared a romantic moment overlooking the mountain. My dad’s parents have two baby party yorkies, named Cookie and Oreo, and I got plenty of puppy cuddles while spending time with them. They also have a grouchy old sausage of a daschund named Munchie. My mom’s parents have a hyper little maltese named Dilly who was always so excited to have the company. One of the days on our trip, we visited everyone and their puppies, then shopped around mid-town. I also have an affinity for the weird. Ross and I have a tradition of taking pictures mocking any statue we see while on vacation. Mid-town was the perfect place to find bizarre statues. Some of our pictures may be a tad blasphemous, but they make me smile, so that’s okay. Perhaps one of my favorite pictures and memories from the entire trip was finding an alien wearing a dinosaur t-shirt. If you know me, you know I love aliens and jurassic park, so finding an alien statue wearing a dinosaur t-shirt was random and serendipitous. We had a great time just being playful.
Rise of the Phoenix
The last day of our trip, my sister and her husband took us up the mountain for some scenic, post-card picture views. The first place they took us was Monjeau Lookout, where we actually took family pictures the day of my sister’s wedding. None of us had been there since a wildfire consumed much of the surrounding area. It was awe-inspiring to see the wake of destruction. We then drove up ski-run rode to a different look out, and, still, there it was – miles upon miles of burnt earth, but under it all, new growth. We talked about how disasters, such as wildfires, also have healing powers, that many of the trees that were diseased were wiped out, only to be replaced with new growth. Yes, it is a process, and it will take many, many years until the vast wilderness is recovered, but it will rise like a phoenix from the ashes. I found it all very symbolic – that even nature sometimes has to break down to rebuild and renew – and there was such beauty in the brokenness. At one point, a blue bird landed at the peak of what was left of the tallest tree and surveyed the surroundings; it was momentous, proving that nature finds a way to survive and thrive. I found a dandelion the size of my head and made a wish before we descended. I loved spending that time with my sister and brother in law in nature. We managed to survive the trip without her throwing me off a cliff! Look how far we have come since childhood.
From the Peak to the Primeval
We took a detour on our road trip home and stopped at Carlsbad Caverns. Less than 24 hours earlier, we were at the peak of a mountain, and now, we were 1,000 feet underground. The cave opened its mouth and digested us, revealing its entrails of stalactite and stalagmite. At times, I forgot how far under the earth I was because it was simply so vast, ceilings of stalagmite far above my head and, still, further to descend. We hustled through the cavern, stopping to admire natural formations and read some of the signs. We didn’t stay terribly long since we still had a road trip, but I left the caverns feeling accomplished, that I had truly seen it all on this vacation, from the highest peak, to the most primeval depths of the world – from the triangle-shaped junipers, to the triangle-shaped cave formations. The drive out of the caverns was the last of our scenic, mountainous views, so we took one last picture before we left.
Overall, this was a trip for the ages. It was the perfect amalgam of family time, adventure, relaxation, new experiences, nostalgia; we experienced it all, from the Mountains, to the desert, to caverns. We ate well, we laughed, we loved. My grandparents, on both sides, were so accommodating and understanding of the time I needed to spend alone with my sister. I did get quality time with them as well in between the more adventurous moments. We could always stop in at my Mawmaw and Pawpaw’s for a comfortable, relaxing chat and puppy cuddles. At the end of tiring days, we always came home to a glass of wine or an old movie with Nanny and Poppo. The trip was sprinkled with meals, moments, and conversations with everyone, and I’m grateful that each person waved with a smile as we wandered off with my sister and her husband. Not everyone has a great relationship with their sibling, and I haven’t always. When we were younger, we were enemies, which I feel is quite natural. As adults, my sister is my best friend and my protector. I never doubt that she has my best interests in mind – that she is looking out for me. We are completely different in many ways – a personification of yin and yang – even down to her owning black cats while I own white cats – but, at the crux of it all, we are the same, soul-bound sisters.
Oh yeah, let’s not forget my other family, too: